Brian Holmes on Wed, 6 Apr 2016 17:52:58 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Ten Theses on the Panama Papers

On 04/06/2016 07:17 AM, Florian Cramer wrote:

   The Cold War has taught us to be suspicious about NGO activity and
    possible governmental agendas behind them.

But Florian, don't you think we're at antipodes from the Cold War? And how much suspicion is really needed to understand those agendas?

The elites behind the ICIJ - Ford Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Rockefeller Family Fund, Stanley Foundation and McArthur Fund - are all affiliates of the Democratic party and primarily concerned with social reproduction. Their agenda is obvious. The capacity of the Democratic party to govern is threatened in at least three ways: By lack of funds, by the overweening power of the billionaire class, and by populist revolts due to the collapse of life prospects for the majority of the population. Since 2008 the federal government has consistently decried its inability to collect taxes (from Apple, etc) and yesterday, Obama's off-the-cuff remarks about the Panama Papers were to the effect that the problem is, most of these tax havens are legal. There's a reason for that. For forty years the US capitalist class has promoted the idea that government should be shrunk to the point where you can drown it in a bathtub, and the centerpiece of their strategy was and remains tax cuts. As a master of suspicion I find nothing on which to exercise my powers here. These elites desperately need money in order to promote a reform program - and they need much more money than the foundations have in their coffers. They also need to push back at some intractable oppoosition.

The world in which our critique even mattered is now very fragile. For years I have been saying this is a major crisis that will change the system, and that too is now obvious. There is a keen and widely shared awareness among intellectuals and even just those who read the news that the so-called democratic societies are at their short-term limits, even as middle and long-term problems grow to vast proportions. At such moments one does not blindly support the status quo ante, for sure - that's what produced the problem - but I do think one has to critically take sides and develop some constructive positions.

I have been to Panama City. The towering skyline that emerged over the last ten years is half-empty: it was made by speculative real estate money that has established similar operational bases around the world, to profit from global networks and stateless capital flows. The Panamanians themselves are wonderful people, but the city the TCC has built is particularly dark, the nastiest side of power, drugs, arms, dictators, skullduggery. By comparison, the Caymans, the British Virgin Islands are - quintessentially European. A polite, dignified, tasteful knife in the back with hit squads ordered from Panama. This is very different from the Cold War where two rationalized power blocs confronted each other in a managed growth dynamic. Global capitalism is now evolving chaotically, toward a state of pure unorganized competition between increasingly powerful actors who may be able to protect themselves (and hide their money) over the short term, but who can do nothing to support the reproduction of society. Either there is a collective effort to curb the powers of the Transnational Capitalist Class, and in parallel, to create new powers of governance, or the outcome of these chaotic trends is highly predictable.

thoughtfully yours, Brian

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